Shut out of their traditional favorite European destinations due to sanctions imposed following the invasion of Ukraine, Russian visitors will instead flock to the MENA region and Turkey this summer.
Forward ticket booking data from travel trends firm ForwardKeys shows an 84% increase in the number of people arriving in the UAE from Russia between June 1 and August 31, 2022, compared to the same period in 2019, which is considered the last “normal” travel year before the COVID-19 pandemic.
For Turkey, the increase is even higher at 96%, and Bahrain’s is even higher at 122%. Saudi Arabia can expect a modest 16% increase, but Egypt will see a 30% increase in Russian visitors.
In contrast, other markets in the wider MENA region, including Lebanon, Jordan, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait, will all see a drop in the number of Russian visitors this summer compared to 2019.
Olivier Ponti, VP Insights, ForwardKeys, said: “From a tourism point of view, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have benefited from the invasion of Ukraine because Russians are always welcome there, while other favorite destinations, having imposed sanctions, are effectively banned. .”
Apart from the sanctions and the lack of available flights to other destinations favored by Russian tourists, the fall of the Turkish lira has made the country more affordable as a destination. Saudi Arabia is also seeking to attract more tourists from around the world through strategic investments in the tourism industry, Ponti said.
“In addition to the relative lack of choice due to the sanctions, the UAE offers many tourist attractions, world-class shopping, a plethora of luxury hotels and plentiful air conditioning,” he added.
A number of sanctions have been imposed on Russia since the start of the war, which has been raging in Ukraine for more than 100 days.
They include financial sanctions against more than 1,000 people, the exclusion of Russian banks from major UK financial systems, the removal of Russian banks from the SWIFT international financial messaging system and the freezing of Russian central bank assets. . Russian flights have also been banned from UK, US and EU airspace.
In the weeks following the start of the war, there were reports of Russian nationals in Asian holiday destinations such as Thailand and Bali stranded without money and struggling with foreign currency and payment issues and flights. cancelled.
There have also been anecdotal reports of a “deluge” of Russian arrivals to the United Arab Emirates and other Middle Eastern destinations in the days and weeks after the war began. While arrivals to the UAE saw only a moderate increase, other destinations saw huge increases, according to actual airfare data from ForwardKeys.
Arrivals to the United Arab Emirates from Russia only increased by 4% from February 24 to May 31, compared to the same period in 2019; however, Qatar saw a 144% increase; Egypt, a 66% increase; Bahrain, a 43% increase; and Saudi Arabia, a 12% increase.
(Reporting by Imogen Lillywhite; editing by Seban Scaria)